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  1. added 2020-02-14
    Understanding, Truth, and Epistemic Goals.Kareem Khalifa - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science.
    Several argue that truth cannot be science’s sole epistemic goal, for it would fail to do justice to several scientific practices that advance understanding. I challenge these arguments, but only after making a small concession: science’s sole epistemic goal is not truth as such; rather, its goal is finding true answers to relevant questions. Using examples from the natural and social sciences, I then show that scientific understanding’s epistemically valuable features are either true answers to relevant questions or a means (...)
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  2. added 2020-02-06
    Idealization and Many Aims.Angela Potochnik - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science.
    In this paper, I first outline the view developed in my recent book on the role of idealization in scientifi c understanding. I discuss how this view leads to the recognition of a number of kinds of variability among scientifi c representations, including variability introduced by the many different aims of scienti fic projects. I then argue that the role of idealization in securing understanding distances understanding from truth, but that this understanding nonetheless gives rise to scienti fic knowledge. This (...)
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  3. added 2019-09-04
    Unification and the Myth of Purely Reductive Understanding.Michael J. Shaffer - 2020 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 27:142-168.
    In this paper significant challenges are raised with respect to the view that explanation essentially involves unification. These objections are raised specifically with respect to the well-known versions of unificationism developed and defended by Michael Friedman and Philip Kitcher. The objections involve the explanatory regress argument and the concepts of reduction and scientific understanding. Essentially, the contention made here is that these versions of unificationism wrongly assume that reduction secures understanding.
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  4. added 2019-09-01
    Veritism Refuted? Understanding, Idealizations, and the Facts.Tamer Nawar - forthcoming - Synthese:1-19.
    Elgin offers an influential and far-reaching challenge to veritism. She takes scientific understanding to be non-factive and maintains that there are epistemically useful falsehoods that figure ineliminably in scientific understanding and whose falsehood is no epistemic defect. Veritism, she argues, cannot account for these facts. This paper argues that while Elgin rightly draws attention to several features of epistemic practices frequently neglected by veritists, veritists have numerous plausible ways of responding to her arguments. In particular, it is not clear that (...)
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  5. added 2019-07-18
    Understanding From Machine Learning Models.Emily Sullivan - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axz035.
    Simple idealized models seem to provide more understanding than opaque, complex, and hyper-realistic models. However, an increasing number of scientists are going in the opposite direction by utilizing opaque machine learning models to make predictions and draw inferences, suggesting that scientists are opting for models that have less potential for understanding. Are scientists trading understanding for some other epistemic or pragmatic good when they choose a machine learning model? Or are the assumptions behind why minimal models provide understanding misguided? In (...)
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  6. added 2019-06-12
    Can We Have Mathematical Understanding of Physical Phenomena?Gabriel Târziu - 2018 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 33 (1):91-109.
    Can mathematics contribute to our understanding of physical phenomena? One way to try to answer this question is by getting involved in the recent philosophical dispute about the existence of mathematical explanations of physical phenomena. If there is such a thing, given the relation between explanation and understanding, we can say that there is an affirmative answer to our question. But what if we do not agree that mathematics can play an explanatory role in science? Can we still consider that (...)
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  7. added 2019-05-30
    The Pragmatic Turn in Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI).Andrés Páez - 2019 - Minds and Machines 29 (3):441-459.
    In this paper I argue that the search for explainable models and interpretable decisions in AI must be reformulated in terms of the broader project of offering a pragmatic and naturalistic account of understanding in AI. Intuitively, the purpose of providing an explanation of a model or a decision is to make it understandable to its stakeholders. But without a previous grasp of what it means to say that an agent understands a model or a decision, the explanatory strategies will (...)
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  8. added 2019-05-01
    Radical Scepticism and the Epistemology of Confusion.J. Adam Carter - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism (3):1-15.
    The lack of knowledge—as Timothy Williamson (2000) famously maintains—is ignorance. Radical sceptical arguments, at least in the tradition of Descartes, threaten universal ignorance. They do so by attempting to establish that we lack any knowledge, even if we can retain other kinds of epistemic standings, like epistemically justified belief. If understanding is a species of knowledge, then radical sceptical arguments threaten to rob us categorically of knowledge and understanding in one fell swoop by implying universal ignorance. If, however, understanding is (...)
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  9. added 2019-04-17
    Rational Understanding: Toward a Probabilistic Epistemology of Acceptability.Finnur Dellsén - forthcoming - Synthese:1-20.
    To understand something involves some sort of commitment to a set of propositions comprising an account of the understood phenomenon. Some take this commitment to be a species of belief; others, such as Elgin and I, take it to be a kind of cognitive policy. This paper takes a step back from debates about the nature of understanding and asks when this commitment involved in understanding is epistemically appropriate, or `acceptable' in Elgin's terminology. In particular, appealing to lessons from the (...)
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  10. added 2018-12-12
    Explanation, Understanding, and Belief Revision.Andrés Páez - 2018 - In Marco Ruffino, Max Freund & Max Fernández de Castro (eds.), Logic and philosophy of logic. Recent trends from Latin America and Spain. London: College Publications. pp. 233-252.
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  11. added 2018-11-14
    String Theory, Non-Empirical Theory Assessment, and the Context of Pursuit.Frank Cabrera - 2018 - Synthese:1-29.
    In this paper, I offer an analysis of the radical disagreement over the adequacy of string theory. The prominence of string theory despite its notorious lack of empirical support is sometimes explained as a troubling case of science gone awry, driven largely by sociological mechanisms such as groupthink (e.g. Smolin 2006). Others, such as Dawid (2013), explain the controversy by positing a methodological revolution of sorts, according to which string theorists have quietly turned to nonempirical methods of theory assessment given (...)
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  12. added 2018-10-27
    Non-Factive Understanding: A Statement and Defense.Yannick Doyle, Spencer Egan, Noah Graham & Kareem Khalifa - 2019 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 50 (3):345-365.
    In epistemology and philosophy of science, there has been substantial debate about truth’s relation to understanding. “Non-factivists” hold that radical departures from the truth are not always barriers to understanding; “quasi-factivists” demur. The most discussed example concerns scientists’ use of idealizations in certain derivations of the ideal gas law from statistical mechanics. Yet, these discussions have suffered from confusions about the relevant science, as well as conceptual confusions. Addressing this example, we shall argue that the ideal gas law is best (...)
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  13. added 2018-09-28
    Understanding, Explanation, and Intelligibility: Henk de Regt: Understanding Scientific Understanding. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, Xii+301pp, £ 47.99HB. [REVIEW]Insa Lawler - 2018 - Metascience (1):57-60.
    Review of Henk de Regt's "Understanding Scientific Understanding".
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  14. added 2018-06-21
    Beyond Explanation: Understanding as Dependency Modeling.Finnur Dellsén - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
    This paper presents and argues for an account of objectual understanding that aims to do justice to the full range of cases of scientific understanding, including cases in which one does not have an explanation of the understood phenomenon. According to the proposed account, one understands a phenomenon just in case one grasps a sufficiently accurate and comprehensive model of the ways in which it or its features are situated within a network of dependence relations; one’s degree of understanding is (...)
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  15. added 2018-06-12
    Review of Chrysostomos Mantzavinos's Explanatory Pluralism. [REVIEW]Alexander Beard & Cory Wright - 2018 - Analysis 78 (3):569–572.
    Chrysostomos Mantzavinos (2016), Explanatory Pluralism. Cambridge University Press, xiv + 223 pp. £64.99 cloth.
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  16. added 2018-05-18
    Realism and Explanatory Perspectivism.Juha Saatsi - forthcoming - In Michela Massimi & C. D. McCoy (eds.), Understanding Perspectivism: Scientific Challenges and Methodological Prospects. New York: Routledge.
    This chapter defends a (minimal) realist conception of progress in scientific understanding in the face of the ubiquitous plurality of perspectives in science. The argument turns on the counterfactual-dependence framework of explanation and understanding, which is illustrated and evidenced with reference to different explanations of the rainbow.
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  17. added 2018-05-07
    Understanding in Epistemology and Philosophy of Science: A Complicated Relationship: Stephen Grimm, Christoph Baumberger, and Sabine Ammon : Explaining Understanding: New Perspectives From Epistemology and Philosophy of Science. New York and London: Routledge, 2017, Xvi + 337 Pp, £110 HB. [REVIEW]Finnur Dellsén - 2018 - Metascience 27 (2):195-198.
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  18. added 2018-01-17
    Eight Other Questions About Explanation.Angela Potochnik - 2018 - In Alexander Reutlinger & Juha Saatsi (eds.), Explanation Beyond Causation: Philosophical Perspectives on Non-Causal Explanations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    The tremendous philosophical focus on how to characterize explanatory metaphysical dependence has eclipsed a number of other unresolved issued about scientific explanation. The purpose of this paper is taxonomical. I will outline a number of other questions about the nature of explanation and its role in science—eight, to be precise—and argue that each is independent. All of these topics have received some philosophical attention, but none nearly so much as it deserves. Furthermore, existing views on these topics have been obscured (...)
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  19. added 2017-09-14
    How Thought Experiments Increase Understanding.Michael T. Stuart - 2017 - In Michael T. Stuart, Yiftach J. H. Fehige & James Robert Brown (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments. London: Routledge. pp. 526-544.
    We might think that thought experiments are at their most powerful or most interesting when they produce new knowledge. This would be a mistake; thought experiments that seek understanding are just as powerful and interesting, and perhaps even more so. A growing number of epistemologists are emphasizing the importance of understanding for epistemology, arguing that it should supplant knowledge as the central notion. In this chapter, I bring the literature on understanding in epistemology to bear on explicating the different ways (...)
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  20. added 2017-07-27
    Varying the Explanatory Span: Scientific Explanation for Computer Simulations.Juan Manuel Durán - 2017 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 31 (1):27-45.
    This article aims to develop a new account of scientific explanation for computer simulations. To this end, two questions are answered: what is the explanatory relation for computer simulations? And what kind of epistemic gain should be expected? For several reasons tailored to the benefits and needs of computer simulations, these questions are better answered within the unificationist model of scientific explanation. Unlike previous efforts in the literature, I submit that the explanatory relation is between the simulation model and the (...)
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  21. added 2017-04-10
    Must Understanding Be Coherent?Kareem Khalifa - 2016 - In Stephen Grimm, Christoph Baumberger & Sabine Ammon (eds.), Explaining understanding: new perspectives from epistemology and philosophy of science. London, UK: Routledge. pp. 139-164.
    Several authors suggest that understanding and epistemic coherence are tightly connected. Using an account of understanding that makes no appeal to coherence, I explain away the intuitions that motivate this position. I then show that the leading coherentist epistemologies only place plausible constraints on understanding insofar as they replicate my own account’s requirements. I conclude that understanding is only superficially coherent.
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  22. added 2017-04-06
    Explanation and Understanding Revisited.Panu Raatikainen - 2017 - In Human Condition. Philosophical Essays in Honour of the Centennial Anniversary of Georg Henrik von Wright. Helsinki: , The Philosophical Society of Finland. pp. 339-353.
    "Explanation and Understanding" (1971) by Georg Henrik von Wright is a modern classic in analytic hermeneutics, and in the philosophy of the social sciences and humanities in general. In this work, von Wright argues against naturalism, or methodological monism, i.e. the idea that both the natural sciences and the social sciences follow broadly the same general scientific approach and aim to achieve causal explanations. Against this view, von Wright contends that the social sciences are qualitatively different from the natural sciences: (...)
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  23. added 2017-04-06
    Understanding and the Norm of Explanation.John Turri - 2015 - Philosophia 43 (4):1171-1175.
    I propose and defend the hypothesis that understanding is the norm of explanation. On this proposal, an explanation should express understanding. I call this the understanding account of explanation. The understanding account is supported by social and introspective observations. It is also supported by the relationship between knowledge and understanding, on the one hand, and assertion and explanation, on the other.
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  24. added 2016-11-18
    Understanding Without Justification or Belief.Finnur Dellsén - 2017 - Ratio 30 (3):239-254.
    In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest among epistemologists in the nature of understanding, with some authors arguing that understanding should replace knowledge as the primary focus of epistemology. But what is understanding? According to what is often called the standard view, understanding is a species of knowledge. Although this view has recently been challenged in various ways, even the critics of the standard view have assumed that understanding requires justification and belief. I argue that it requires (...)
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  25. added 2016-07-21
    Henk W. De Regt, Sabina Leonelli and Kai Eigner , Scientific Understanding: Philosophical Perspectives. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009. Pp. Ix+352. ISBN 978-0-8229-4378-6. $65.00. [REVIEW]Jacob Stegenga - 2011 - British Journal for the History of Science 44 (4):578-580.
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  26. added 2016-02-18
    Scientific Progress: Knowledge Versus Understanding.Finnur Dellsén - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 56:72-83.
    What is scientific progress? On Alexander Bird’s epistemic account of scientific progress, an episode in science is progressive precisely when there is more scientific knowledge at the end of the episode than at the beginning. Using Bird’s epistemic account as a foil, this paper develops an alternative understanding-based account on which an episode in science is progressive precisely when scientists grasp how to correctly explain or predict more aspects of the world at the end of the episode than at the (...)
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  27. added 2015-10-25
    Psychiatric Explanation and Understanding.Tim Thornton - 2010 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 6 (1):95-111.
    Jaspers’s binary distinction between understanding and explanation has given way first to a proliferation of explanatory levels and now, in John Campbell’s recent work, to a conception of explanation with no distinct levels of explanation and no inbuilt rationality requirement. I argue that there is still a role for understanding in psychiatry and that is to demystify the assumption that the states it concerns are mental. This role can be fulfilled by placing rationality at the heart of understanding without a (...)
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  28. added 2015-09-04
    The Meta-Explanatory Question.L. R. Franklin-Hall - manuscript
    Philosophical theories of explanation characterize the difference between correct and incorrect explanations. While remaining neutral as to which of these ‘first-order’ theories is right, this paper asks the ‘meta-explanatory’ question: is the difference between correct and incorrect explanation real, i.e., objective or mind-independent? After offering a framework for distinguishing realist from anti-realist views, I sketch three distinct paths to explanatory anti-realism.
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  29. added 2014-03-04
    Explanation and Understanding: An Alternative to Strevens’ Depth.Angela Potochnik - 2011 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 1 (1):29-38.
    Michael Strevens offers an account of causal explanation according to which explanatory practice is shaped by counterbalanced commitments to representing causal influence and abstracting away from overly specific details. In this paper, I challenge a key feature of that account. I argue that what Strevens calls explanatory frameworks figure prominently in explanatory practice because they actually improve explanations. This suggestion is simple but has far-reaching implications. It affects the status of explanations that cite multiply realizable properties; changes the explanatory role (...)
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  30. added 2013-11-02
    A Problem-Solving Account of Scientific Explanation.Gary Hardcastle - manuscript
    An account of scientific explanation is presented according to which (1) scientific explanation consists in solving “insight” problems (Metcalfe and Wiebe 1984) and (2) understanding is the result of solving such problems. The theory is pragmatic; it draws upon van Fraassen’s (1977, 1980) insights, avoids the objections to pragmatic accounts offered by Kitcher and Salmon (1987), and relates scientific explanation directly to understanding. The theory also accommodates cases of explanatory asymmetry and intuitively legitimate rejections of explanation requests.
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  31. added 2012-07-12
    Jaspers on Explaining and Understanding in Psychiatry.Christoph Hoerl - 2013 - In Thomas Fuchs & Giovanni Stanghellini (eds.), One Hundred Years of Karl Jaspers' General Psychopathology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 107-120.
    This chapter offers an interpretation of Jaspers’ distinction between explaining and understanding, which relates this distinction to that between general and singular causal claims. Put briefly, I suggest that when Jaspers talks about (mere) explanation, what he has in mind are general causal claims linking types of events. Understanding, by contrast, is concerned with singular causation in the psychological domain. Furthermore, I also suggest that Jaspers thinks that only understanding makes manifest what causation between one element of a person’s mental (...)
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